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Elon Musk says A.I. race should pause for six months

Big tech leaders are calling for a six-month pause on experiments for A.I. systems more powerful than GPT-4. Tesla (TSLA) & Twitter CEO Elon Musk, Apple Co-Founder Steve Wozniak, and 2020 presidential candidate Andrew Yang are three of the 1,000+ signatories on an open letter saying A.I. systems can have "profound risks to society and humanity."

Yahoo Finance’s Dave Briggs breaks down why despite some valid concerns brought up in the letter, Elon Musk is the wrong person to spread this message. Yahoo Finance’s Seana Smith joins in to discuss the A.I. race.

Key video moments

00:00:12 On who signed the letter

00:00:32 On Elon Musk’s messaging

00:01:28 On Musk’s time at Twitter

00:01:40 On popularity of ChatGPT

00:02:00 On Bill Gates’ opinion

00:02:30 On the irony of Musk signing the letter

00:03:20 On Musk being a founder of OpenAI

Video Transcript

DAVE BRIGGS: Elon Musk is urging us to push the pause button for six months on AI. In an open letter from the Future of Life Institute, Mr. Musk, along with Apple Co-Founder Steve Wozniak, 2020 Presidential Candidate Andrew Yang, and dozens of other tech leaders writing, quote, "powerful AI systems should be developed only once we are confident that their effects will be positive and their risks will be manageable."

These are certainly valid concerns, but Elon Musk, this guy, might be the last person on the planet who should deliver this message. Take, for example, Tesla's fully autonomous driving program, the subject of a class action lawsuit before a San Francisco federal court. I asked ChatGPT what concerns it has about Elon's autonomous cars. And it told me, quote, "there have been several accidents involving them, some of which have been fatal."

There are concerns that technology is not yet advanced enough to ensure safety for passengers and other road users. Chat cited legal and regulatory issues, even ethical concerns around how decisions will be made in situations where there are no clear ethical solutions. This letter also asks, should we let machines flood our information channels with propaganda and untruth? Where have I heard that before?

Has Elon scrolled Twitter since he took over? It's literally a breeding ground for propaganda and untruths. So maybe just sit this one out, Elon. As for a six month pause, consider that ChatGPT amassed 100 million active users in two months, the fastest growing consumer app ever.

Pumping the brakes now on AI after the entire tech world has put the pedal to the metal is not feasible. It's the biggest investor story in years, maybe decades. Bill Gates himself just called it as fundamental as the creation of the internet or mobile phone. There is no putting this multi-billion dollar genie back in the bottle.

And, Seana, as the letter from Bill Gates wrote, we do need some meaning for guardrails here. But is Elon Musk the one that should be delivering this message? Maybe if he was not on that letter, I could take it more seriously.

SEANA SMITH: Yeah, I am very surprised. And like you said, Dave, it's very ironic that he was one of the signees here of this letter. Because you raise a good point-- there certainly has been a lot of misinformation, a lot of concern about some of his technological advances in the past, a lot about what the information that he himself has put on Twitter-- that Twitter platform in general displays on a daily basis.

But we've heard this nervousness, these questions about AI. We had the Chamber of Commerce, a representative from there, on the show a few weeks ago when they were urging for AI regulation. So I think there is a lot of merit to this argument. But you're right-- given the fact that so many companies are jumping on board here, given the fact that ChatGPT was extraordinarily popular-- what did you say, 100 million users by the end of January?

DAVE BRIGGS: In two months.

SEANA SMITH: That is just incredible and really shows the popularity and, really, the growth potential of this technology.

DAVE BRIGGS: A little more irony-- Elon Musk is one of the founders of OpenAI, which created ChatGPT. So he wants to kill his own monster, in a sort of way. But, look, there are valid concerns about AI. Will they replace jobs?

Certainly, they will replace some jobs. But again, it's just too late to put this genie back in the bottle. So what they should be urging is meaningful guardrails and the tech community to get together with government and figure this out, come up with some sort of council to figure it out. Because pausing it is a ridiculous notion.

SEANA SMITH: No, and even just look at the reaction that we saw in so many of the earnings reports, earnings calls from the last quarter. Any company, most companies, that mentioned AI, you saw that stock take off the next day. So it's something that's certainly resonating with Wall Street, resonating with investors. And I don't think any of those companies are going to be slowing down.

DAVE BRIGGS: I just got an email from OpenTable about how your dinner reservations will use AI and an email from my grocery store about how you can do grocery shopping with AI.

SEANA SMITH: It's everywhere.

DAVE BRIGGS: It's too late now.